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Theresa May delays Britain's key Brexit vote

Posted at 10:39 AM, Dec 10, 2018

Britain's big Brexit decision appears to have been delayed.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has pulled the plug on Tuesday's parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, a source with knowledge of the decision told CNN Monday.

The decision -- also widely reported in British media -- may have been taken in the face of predictions she would suffer a disastrous defeat that could threaten to end her premiership and topple the government.

There has not been any official confirmation of a postponement. May will address the UK House of Commons on Monday afternoon, according to an unexpected announcement from Parliament's press office. The leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, will make a statement after that followed by Brexit Secretary, Steve Barclay.

UK parliamentarians were supposed to be given the opportunity to approve or reject the deal in the so-called "meaningful vote" in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening.

In recent weeks, May had been trying to win support for her agreement but with a high number of her own Conservative Party MPs opposed to it, she didn't appear to be having much success.

On Sunday, May warned that failure to support her Brexit deal could risk the UK canceling Brexit and lead to Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, "getting his hands on power."

"I'm not somebody who is normally a doom-monger, but I genuinely am concerned that we would see greater division and greater uncertainty," the embattled British leader added.

If the crucial Brexit vote is delayed, it is unclear what May's options would be. She is due to attend a meeting of European leaders on Saturday, at which the parliamentary impasse over Brexit is likely to be top of the agenda.

The uncertainty over whether the crucial Brexit vote will take place has caused sterling to plummet to its weakest level in a year and a half.

There was confusion and anger as reports emerged that May had hit the pause button on the vote. EU Parliament chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt expressed his frustration at the vote stalling in a post on Twitter.

"This delay will further aggravate the uncertainty for people & businesses. It's time they make up their mind!" he wrote.

The European Commission had earlier ruled out any further Brexit discussions, saying "we have an agreement on the table which was endorsed by the European Council... as President Juncker said, this deal is the best and only deal possible. We will not renegotiate."

Back in Westminster, Conservative MP James Duddridge vowed to fight a delay in the vote.

"The PM does not get to pull a vote. The House will have to vote to pull a vote. I will oppose. We need to see this deal off once and for all," Duddridge wrote on Twitter.

Earlier on Monday, the EU's top court ruled that Britain could unilaterally halt the formal process of leaving the bloc next year.

The European Court of Justice sided with the advice of its top legal officer, who declared last week that the UK has the power to withdraw its notification to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, without the agreement of other member states.

But May's government dismissed the ruling, with Environment Secretary Michael Gove telling the BBC that the UK will divorce the bloc regardless of the ECJ decision.

"We voted very clearly -- 17.4 million people sent a clear message that they wanted to leave the European Union," said Gove, a prominent Leave campaigner. "And that also means leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice," he said.

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